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The Spine cometh again

Most people come out of Christmas into New Year with New Year Resolutions to lose weight and do more exercise. Most Spine racers have been piling on the pounds in preparation for yet another arduous journey from Edale to Kirk Yetholm with one thing on their mind; finishing! But before then, the months of training culminate in last minute kit conversations and food.

The Spine race is aptly labelled as Britain’s most brutal ultra-marathon. It starts in Edale, Derbyshire and follows the Pennine Way to the end in Kirk Yetholm, Scotland. And it happens in January to make it as brutal as possible. It’s become a cult event, with hundreds of spectators glued to their screens watching and willing the little red dots to make it all the way to the end.

Last year I almost made it but, along with a small band of brothers a few hours ahead of me, we were all cut short due to snow in the Cheviots. Tough call by the Race Director, but safety in the hills comes first. So this year I go again but with some new Páramo gear.

Last year’s Aspira Trousers are a key part of my armour but due to this warm weather we’ve been having on Dartmoor, my Cascada Trousers have been used a lot for training so will be added to my drop bag to give a bit more flexibility if it turns out warm and dry. But having added an Aarn rucksack with twin front pouches, my Aspira Smock, a fantastic jacket in previous years and events, has been replaced with a swanky new red Enduro jacket! Being a jacket with plenty of pockets, I’ve managed to retain good access to them, fitting in nicely around the various Aarn straps. Also, the full length front zip has increased the venting options compared to the smock. Add to this my Cambia Boxer
Shorts and Grid Technic and I’m looking like a bit of a Páramo poster boy!

As we edge closer to race day, the forum becomes more frantic with kit and food being big
topics. An interesting aspect is the light versus heavy, solid winter approach to the race. Most
people who have done the race before know this is not a minimalist kit race. I made that
mistake in my first year and now prepare for every eventuality of weather and temperatures; I’ve
even got my snowshoes in my drop bag just in case. Lightweight Goretex jackets and trousers
will be in many bags but as the amount of mud and snow make falling over a regular
occurrence, having kit that can take a battering becomes vital. I trashed my lightweight gear
within the first 100 miles last year and apart from a few small tears in my smock, my Páramo
gear did not let me down in pretty harsh conditions. Hence I go again with Páramo.

One thing about the weather is that we are guaranteed rain, sleet, mud and snow, which makes for slow going. A 20 hour day can be expected, leaving only 4 hours to get in and out of a
checkpoint that needs to include eating, sleeping and preparing for the next day, so little time to dry
kit – assuming there is a drying room and if there is, that there is room in the drying room for
your kit! In this situation you really don’t need broken kit.

The other issue to focus on is efficiency as the clock never stops ticking. Having easy access to
food and kit is a great way of saving time so having enough food in pockets and front pouches
reduces the amount of stop time. Having spare gloves and hats also within easy reach not only
makes sure you use them, but means you don’t leave it until it’s too late. Being able to change
kit, get food and eat without stopping can save a few hours over the 7 days. Stopping to pull on waterproof trousers may only take a few minutes, but the minutes add up. Having kit you know and trust, with lots of flexibility to deal with the weather, can be the difference between a finish or a ‘DNF’.

I know my kit, I know the route, and I know what it takes but we also all need a little bit of luck to
get to the pub in Kirk Yetholm on time. I’m hoping 2017 is my lucky year.

Peter Gold

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